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"This special was produced to promote the Firesign Theatre's latest CD (at the time), "The Bride of Firesign." Unfortunately, the powers that be (PBS) decided that, rather than letting the fab four put together an evening of new(er) material, presenting older, "classic" material would be a safer bet. Well, perhaps it is, but the end result is somewhat of an unintentional "de-fanging" of the Firesigns. This troupe is at it's best when they are allowed to be more topical and skewer the society they see around them. As good as the material from their first four albums is, it is somewhat dated and certainly not designed for live performance. So, through no fault of their own, the boys and their material appear somewhat creaky (and, no, it has nothing to do with their ever-advancing ages). The four (Philip Austin, David Ossman, Philip Proctor, and Peter Bergman) throw in new lines here and there to contemporize the bits and to keep the audience (many of whom probably know the pieces by heart) on their toes, but it's still somewhat an exercise in nostalgia. The only new bit they perform is the closing which comes from their disc "Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death" and it's certainly the most relevant and possibly funniest of the eve. Which isn't to say the pieces they do perform are not funny - far from it. These bits have become "classics" for a reason. They are remarkably dense, smart, and funny. In between live performances, such Firesign fans as George Carlin, John Goodman, Robin Williams, and Chevy Chase give testimonials on the group's greatness. And, the Firesigns all perform very admirably considering the restrictions presented (the works were designed for audio only, so giving them a visual dimension presents a challenge). If the suits had given them free reign, this would more than likely be a five star title (considering the strength of their recent output: the aforementioned "Death," "Bride," and "Boom Dot Bust"). But, as it is, it's a three-to-four-star DVD. Great comedy troupe, tried and true material, but less-than-ideal conception. Still, it's great to see this fantastic, underrated comedy team get their due."
I Saw the Funniest Minds of My Generation Destroyed by PBS
Theatre & Teaching | 11/13/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"If you've never heard the richly imaginative comedy of The Firesign Theatre, ask the nearest Baby Boomer to loan you an early album. One listen won't convert you; that's why you'll have to hear it about a dozen times. Some of their jokes may be over your head, but as you grow up you'll eventually reach their level. TFT were four radio comedians who obsessively wrote and re-wrote their jokes, then went into the studio to record and re-record them. It was this attention to detail that made their early albums so great; sadly, it's the very lack of the same that made the Weirdly Cool special such a disappointment for me.
The special was produced on the cheap for Philadelphia Public Television. Apparently, what they found most appealing about TFT was the fact that they tour the country with a stripped-down stage act: familiar scenes from their albums are acted out with a bare minimum of props, costumes and scenery. (In other words, no risk of going over budget.) The problem with this minimalist approach is that while it may work in a community theatre, it also draws unflattering comparisons to Whose Line Is It Anyway?
What I personally found most disappointing was TFT's decision to coast on tried-and-tested stage routines instead of writing fresh new sketches for the occasion. It seems that no one was willing to confront TFT and explain to them that what worked on a comedy album or a theatre stage in the late sixties does not necessarily work on a widescreen TV in the 21st century. The end result is that despite their 35 years of radio and stage experience, TFT still come off as rank amateurs on television. Highlight: The surrealist Volkswagen TV commercials that TFT cranked out in their early days to pay the bills. Lowlight: The Bear Whiz Beer commercial parody that uses a real country stream but not a real bear. Recommended To: Firesign hagiographers. (If you know what it means, you're probably one of 'em.) Not Recommended To: Young Conservatives. Fair Price: Free when it comes to your local PBS station."
Truly a "Best Of" DVD
Ken | Sturgis, MI United States | 11/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, this one is not for everybody. If you want humor that requires your brain to be in neutral, then it's not for you. But, if you want humor that stretches your powers of thought, if you enjoy humor that has more than one banal level, or if you thought the Firesign Theatre died out in the 70's, then you're in for a real treat here. Originally produced for PBS as a pledge drive premium, it's a compilation of some of the best material that this group has ever produced, performed in such a way that laughter is automatic and uncontrollable. Stretch your mind, enjoy something that makes you think, order this one NOW!"
One for the Firesign newbies!
Mark Cloud | Murrieta, CA USA | 01/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Much of the Firesign Theatre's work requires close attention to understand it; it is simply not background comedy. The literary references alone are enough to keep most people scratching their heads and wondering what all the brouhaha is about.That said, when I watched this video with friends, I was pleasantly surprised to see that even the people who had never heard of them were enjoying the performance a LOT. The reason, I think, is that the 4 or 5 are enjoying themselves so much here that it is quite infectuous. And the material is (as it often is) brilliant; and the ad libs bring it into the present and make it all fresh again.If you are new to the Firesign Theatre, you could do worse than to start with this video. If you already know them, well, it's all here: brilliant, stupid, superficial and deep. Enjoy."
"Weirdly Lame: The FireSign Theatre only offer a small spark
Theatre & Teaching | Cooma NSW, Australia | 10/10/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I would like to start by noting that I haven't grown up with "The Firesign Theatre". I don't have an entrenched emotional relationship with Firesign and now wonder whether a previous connection to the group was an important prerequisite to enjoying this DVD. I'd only read a few articles and reviews on Firesign and thought what the heck, give Firesign a go. After all, I'm curious about comedy, improvisation and theatre, and as a H.S. Drama teacher, I'm always on the look out for good DVD performance resources.
However, I must apoligise to any dedicated "Firesign" fans (like Robin Williams) whom I may offend but I found "Weirdly Cool" surprisingly cumbersome and damp. There were a couple of sound moments that really worked well but on the whole, I was extremely disappointed by their worn routines and lame jokes. The stagecraft was only adequate. I actually found that watching "weirdly cool" became increasingly more torturous the further it went on.
Now,this DVD does provoke some thought on the nature of comedy and how much humour can be lost through cultural and/or generational gaps. How different are the British / Amercian / Australian / German / etc senses of humour? I really doubt that I could even show one ot two moments from this DVD performance to my students as an example of playbuilding or comedy.
I guess weirdly cool is intended as a remembrance and must have some sentimental value to somebody who was there. However, as far as I'm concerned...
Anybody interested in a cheap almost new copy of "Weirdly Cool" for sale?"